The Brief History of the Dead

I woke up at 2:30 this morning with the light on in my bedroom and Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead plastered to my face. I had been trying valiantly to finish up the last 30 pages, but apparently my exhaustion won out over Brockmeier’s book.

Even though I haven’t finished this book yet I can say without reservation, you should read this book.
Go get it right now
. NOW. You will not regret it. Even if the very last sentence on the very last page is, “then I woke up to discover it was all a dream” the book is still something you should read. The Brief History of the Dead is wonderful, stunning, thought-provoking, evocative and every other lame book-review cliche/superlative I can’t think of right now.

Here’s the basic premise: There’s a city in the afterlife populated by the recently departed who get to live in this city until everyone who remembers them dies.


Doesn’t it give you goosebumps just thinking about it? It gives me the shivers writing about it. The book is glorious and has consumed my every waking thought this week.

Since the city is only populated by people who are remembered by the living. One of the recently-dead sits down to try to make a list of all the people he can remember and his list contains like 40,000 people. I’ve become obsessed with this notion. I haven’t made the list of all the people I can remember, but I want to.

I want to remember everyone I’ve ever come across. I was thinking about someone this morning, and thought ‘huh I should write about that.’ And now I can’t remember the who or what of it. If I were the last person on earth (and this kind of happens in the book), that person would not make the city cut.

How sad.

There has been much bally-hoo about Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-prize winning/Oprah Bookclub, post-apocalyptic powerhouse The Road. Eh. I am still kind of lukewarm about it and the whole apostrophe nightmare.

For some reason these Brockmeier’s and McCarthy’s books have become intertwined in my head. They’re both apocalyptic tales, but Brockmeier’s book is everything I wanted The Road to be. Where McCarthy’s book beats you about the face and neck with its unrelenting bleakness, it’s lacking in imagination and, well, emotion.

Brockmeier’s book is filled with imagination, emotion, cleverness, and even humor. God I love this book. You can read Brockmeier’s Book Notes over at Largehearted Boy.

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  1. Jodi 17.May.07 at 5:55 pm

    I forgot about that, and I read all the Book Notes essays (they’re my favorite). I just went and added it to the post too.

  2. Kristy 19.May.07 at 10:03 pm

    So…you know how an Ipod works…I know that. Well I own a Sony E-book reader. And this means that when I am so inclined I can purchase novels straight away from my laptop. This means that every time you critique a book….if I am so inclined…I can click click with my mouse and own that book.

    This is bad…..if you take a look at how many books you’ve gushed about recently you will see why I will be forwarding my electricity bill to you this coming month. I’m sure you can surely understand my problem. 😉

    Seriously…..the Sony’s full of good titles…thanks!

    Oh and the Sony’s name is “Many-any” as in I buy many and any books for it. I have a “jodi” section programmed in. That’s sad…eh? Someone from a publisher should PAY you already. 🙂

  3. Jodi 19.May.07 at 10:26 pm

    Ha! I would feel a little guilty if I weren’t sitting two feet away from my coffee table which has TEN unread books on it. All books purchased in the past month. Then there’s the book right here on the arm of the chair.

    It’s an addiction my friend, I can relate.

    I’ll try to slow down a bit to give your bank account and electricity bill a break.


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